Dividend Aristocrats In Focus: Realty Income


Updated on May 17th, 2024 by Bob Ciura

Regarding dividend growth stocks, the Dividend Aristocrats are the “cream of the crop.” These are stocks in the S&P 500 Index with 25+ consecutive years of dividend increases.


We recommend that long-term investors looking for the best stocks first consider the Dividend Aristocrats.

We have compiled a list of all 68 Dividend Aristocrats, along with relevant financial metrics like dividend yield and P/E ratios. You can download the full list of Dividend Aristocrats by clicking on the link below:



Disclaimer: Sure Dividend is not affiliated with S&P Global in any way. S&P Global owns and maintains The Dividend Aristocrats Index. The information in this article and downloadable spreadsheet is based on Sure Dividend’s own review, summary, and analysis of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL) and other sources, and is meant to help individual investors better understand this ETF and the index upon which it is based. None of the information in this article or spreadsheet is official data from S&P Global. Consult S&P Global for official information.

At the same time, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) seem like natural fits for the Dividend Aristocrats. REITs are required to distribute at least 90% of their earnings to shareholders, which leads to steady dividend growth for the asset class, provided earnings grow over time.

And yet, there are only three REITs on the list of Dividend Aristocrats: Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT), Essex Property Trust (ESS), and Realty Income (O).

Realty Income has a very impressive dividend history, particularly for a REIT. Realty Income is a Dividend Aristocrat. It is also a monthly dividend stock, meaning it pays shareholders 12 dividends each year instead of the more typical quarterly payment schedule.


This article will discuss this Dividend Aristocrat in more detail.

Business Overview

Realty Income was founded in 1969. It is a retail-focused REIT that has become famous for its successful dividend growth history and monthly dividend payments, even labeling itself “The Monthly Dividend Company.”

The trust employs a highly scalable business model that has enabled it to grow into a massive landlord of more than 15,000 properties.

It owns retail properties that are not part of a wider retail development (such as a mall) but instead are standalone properties. This means the properties are viable for many tenants, including government services, healthcare services, and entertainment.

Source: Investor Presentation

Realty Income owns a highly diversified portfolio by industry, tenant, and geography. The vast majority of its rent comes from e-commerce and recession-resistant tenants, making it a good bond substitute.

The company also has exposure to industrial, office, and agricultural tenants, though retail still makes up the bulk of its rental income.

The REIT’s business model is quite simple and has delivered spectacular long-term results.

Realty Income acquires well-located commercial properties, remains disciplined in acquisition underwriting, executes long-term net lease agreements, and actively manages the portfolio to maximize value.

The results of this model speak for themselves: 13.6% compound average annual total return since the 1994 listing on the New York Stock Exchange, a lower beta value (a measure of stock volatility) than the S&P 500 in the same time period, and positive earnings-per-share growth in 27 out of the past 28 years.

Growth Prospects

Realty Income’s future growth will be fueled by its proven and highly scalable business model. Acquisitions have been a major component of Realty Income’s growth for many years.

Annual rent increases provide for built-in revenue growth over time. The company has a long history of generating solid growth, both organically and through acquisitions.

Source: Investor Presentation

On February 20th, 2024, Realty Income Corp reported its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2023. In the fourth quarter, normalized FFO per share was $1.00, down from $1.04 in Q3 and $1.05 in Q4 2022.

Revenue totaled $1.08 billion, surpassing the consensus of $983.7 million, and rose from $1.04 billion in the previous quarter and $888.7 million a year earlier.

Portfolio occupancy stood at 98.6% as of December 31, 2023.

For 2024, Realty Income projects a normalized FFO per share ranging from $4.17 to $4.29, with a midpoint of $4.23, compared to the consensus estimate of $4.25 and the $4.00 reported for 2023.

Same-store rent growth guidance for the year is around 1.0% year-over-year, in contrast to the 1.9% growth seen in 2023, while acquisition volume guidance stands at approximately $2.0 billion.

Competitive Advantages & Recession Performance

One way REITs establish a competitive advantage is through investing in the highest-quality portfolios. Realty Income has done this by building a broadly diversified portfolio of well-located real estate with many high-quality tenants.

Realty Income also benefits from a favorable economic backdrop, with high occupancy rates and the ability to raise rents over time.

Another – and perhaps the most prominent – competitive advantage for Realty Income is its extremely strong balance sheet. With a credit rating of A- from Standard & Poor’s – which is solidly investment-grade and a high rating for a REIT – it is able to unlock value in significant acquisitions simply through refinancing the existing debt on the properties it acquires at considerably lower interest rates.

As a result, it is able to profitably invest in high-quality assets that many of its competitors could not. This gives it the ability to build a more robust portfolio while also having more growth levers available to it, generating superior risk-adjusted returns for shareholders.

History shows that these competitive strengths allow Realty Income to outperform well during the worst of economic recessions. For example, its FFO per share during the Great Recession (from 2007-2009) grew at an annualized rate of 2.1%, and its occupancy remained highly resilient throughout the entire period.

This was a remarkable achievement and speaks to the strength of the business model. We expect Realty Income to hold up similarly well during the next downturn, and in fact, it will likely present the trust with an opportunity to refuel its growth pipeline as it will likely use its strong balance sheet to snatch up discounted properties.

Valuation & Expected Returns

Based on our expected 2024 adjusted FFO-per-share of $4.17, Realty Income’s stock trades for a price-to-FFO ratio of 13.2. Investors can think of this as similar to a price-to-earnings ratio.

Our fair value estimate is a P/FFO ratio of 14, making the stock undervalued right now.

An increasing P/FFO ratio could increase annual returns by 1.2% per year over the next five years. Also, future returns will be comprised of a mix of FFO growth (estimated at 2.2% annually) and dividends (current yield is 5.6%), leading to expected annual returns of 9.0% per year.

The current dividend yield is well above the S&P 500 average, and the company has done an excellent job growing the dividend payout over time.

Final Thoughts

Investors flock to REITs for dividends, and with high yields across the asset class, it is easy to see why they are so popular for income investors.

We have compiled a list of 150+ REITs, that are worthy of further consideration based on their dividend yields and dividend growth potential. You can see our entire REIT list here.

Realty Income stock is expected to return 9% per year at the current price, making the stock a hold.

If you are interested in finding more high-quality dividend growth stocks suitable for long-term investment, the following Sure Dividend databases will be useful:

The major domestic stock market indices are another solid resource for finding investment ideas. Sure Dividend compiles the following stock market databases and updates them monthly:

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